What a difference a few days make - for both these clubs. Spurs breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as they won in the Premiership for only the second time this season to add to a midweek Uefa Cup success. Portsmouth have now lost back-to-back games following a whirlwind start.
Martin Jol, not surprisingly, was the happier of the two managers. Even though there was considerable controversy about both his team's goals and they made life hard for themselves, there was a desire and energy that suggests they will continue climbing the table.
Dimitar Berbatov's return after a groin injury sustained on international duty gave Jol a convenient reason to relegate Mido to the substitutes' bench after the Egyptian's injudicious remarks about Sol Campbell. Mido was reported as saying that Campbell was "one of the easiest defenders" he had ever played against.
Feelings still run high among Spurs fans, who have never forgiven Campbell for switching to Arsenal five years ago. Although the England defender has since moved on again and has been rock solid for Pompey this season, he was booed every time he touched the ball.
Much fairer treatment was meted out to the other two former Spurs players in the Portsmouth line-up, Sean Davis and Pedro Mendes, but that was the end of the charity, as Spurs were in front after just 39 seconds. Jermain Defoe wriggled into the area, Berbatov met his cross with an accurate header and when David James parried, Danny Murphy tucked home the rebound for his first goal in a Spurs shirt and the club's first in the Premiership for seven hours and 13 minutes.
Although Glen Johnson seemed to have been fouled in the build-up to the goal, it was a dream start for Tottenham. Pretty soon the lead was almost doubled, James pulling off an acrobatic one-handed stop to defy Murphy a second.
There was always a danger Harry Redknapp's team would concede again but when they did it was from a highly dubious penalty. Didier Zokora fell theatrically under a challenge from Mendes and Chris Foy pointed to the spot. Defoe swept the penalty into the corner.
That should have been the signal for Spurs to put the game beyond reach. Instead, as so often, they lost their collective concentration and allowed an unmarked Nwankwo Kanu to halve the deficit with a superbly placed header from Gary O'Neill's cross. It set the second half up beautifully and only three clearances by Michael Dawson kept Portsmouth at bay before the Spurs defender was forced out of the action with concussion 10 minutes from time. There was still time, however, for Paul Robinson to pull off a miraculous stoppage-time save from Lomana Lua Lua.
"Everybody saw it, it was farcical," said Redknapp of Zokora's fall. "The whole country knows it wasn't a penalty but why can't we have a monitor beside the dugout so that the fourth official can tell the ref? It would take all of 10 seconds, it's so easy. This referee is a nice guy but he made a mistake and has told me so. It's easily done when someone dives like that and the refs need help. I thought they were there for the taking in the second half."
Jol admitted his side were fortunate to get the decision. "Zokora told me he was off-balance. It was not a blatant dive. If you see him play, he always goes in honestly. But I can understand if Harry feels upset," said Jol. "But we played some good stuff and deserved to win."
Goals: Murphy (1) 1-0; Defoe pen (35) 2-0; Kanu (40) 2-1.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda (Huddlestone, 46), King, Dawson (Davenport, 82), Assou-Ekotto; Ghaly, Zokora, Murphy, Jenas; Defoe, Berbatov (Keane, 73). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Mido.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Campbell, Primus, Stefanovic (Taylor, 63); O'Neill, Davis (Benjani, 63), Mendes, Kranjcar; Kanu (Cole, 71), Lua Lua. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Pamarot.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Dawson.
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